...of European greed and money-consciousness (where do you suppose we got it from?). When it came to commerce and colonial exploitation, it is hard to say whether it was the British or the Dutch who were the worst of the lot (though Spain and Portugal were serious contenders for the title of colonial exploitation). Where better than England, then, to produce a film that portrays this aspect of Rembrandt's life?
Just as New Amsterdam
became the center of commerce in the US (after it was re-branded as New York), old Amsterdam became the center of commerce in the Netherlands as the Dutch colonial power grew. This social setting is used in the film to powerful effect, by contrasting it against the needs and mindset of a creative artist, who must survive in a commercial world while keeping faith with the need for expression that drives his art. It is this picture exactly that families have in mind when they despair over their children who hear the call of artistic expression rather than that of a more gainful occupation. I had one art teacher who focused on skills useful to graphic and commercial artists, so that her students might have some hope of employment. And in the film, Rembrandt does his best to discourage his son from taking up the brush and palette.
Rembrandt is portrayed as a man with a passionate love, respect, regard, and admiration of women. A more beautiful soliloquy than the one that Charles Laughton delivers in his inimitable style can scarcely be heard anywhere. We then see him deteriorate visibly when death takes the love of his life, and the loss and grief blasts his mind. When he dares to risk love a second time, it happens again, and he is all but destroyed. Such is the condition of malekind, who cannot get his needs met among his own the way that women can among theirs, and must "put all his eggs in one basket," only to see them, more often than not, smashed all at once.
Charles Laughton, who so ably portrayed over-bloated aristocrats, tyrants, and villains, renders a painfully realistic performance of this tragedy that is difficult to watch, and left me feeling sad and depressed. A film of any lesser quality would not have nearly so much impact. Five stars for the quality, not the enjoyment.